Expensive, elitist, indulgent. These are just some of the negative connotations that some people may associate designer furniture with. In today’s high cost of living, do we really need to drop thousands of dollars on a piece of furniture when similar aesthetic and functional value can be found in more accessible, mass-produced alternatives?

Piero Lissoni, a renowned designer and the creative director of B&B Italia and Living Divani, acknowledges the accessibility of cheaper alternatives in the market but argues that the decision to invest in designer furniture is akin to other luxury purchases, such as Prada shoes, Hermes bags, or a Rolex watch. He also noted the differing purchasing patterns of luxury fashion and designer furniture. 

Piero Lissoni
Piero Lissoni, image courtesy of Space Furniture.

“Unlike the cyclical nature of fashion choices, where items may be replaced seasonally or yearly, selecting furniture items like sofas and kitchens for the long term necessitates a consideration of economic factors. Plus, the former is often driven by a desire for display, a means of showcasing one’s taste to public, while the latter leans towards a more private, personal domain, often reflecting a commitment to a long-term perspective,” explains Lissoni.

The pursuit of enduring quality often comes with a corresponding financial investment. The high price of designer furniture, according to Lissoni, is driven by factors such as sustainability, craftsmanship, and quality. He highlights the longevity and durability of well-crafted pieces, emphasising the economic value over time. Lissoni argues that “the cost per day or the daily cost in bulk, considering the lifespan of the furniture, makes designer pieces economically reasonable.”

Related: Design Conversation: Sustainable development in the furniture industry

designer furniture from Space Furniture

Iconic designs also contribute to the lasting appeal and value of designer furniture. The UP5_6 armchair designed by Gaetana Pesce in 1969 for Italian furniture brand, B&B Italia, is a classic example. Available in Singapore through Space Furniture, the armchair’s lasting popularity attests to the timelessness of its design, making it a collector’s item with a strong resale value. The same can’t be said for mass-produced alternatives.

Limited edition collaborations between designers and furniture manufacturers also add a layer of exclusivity to designer furniture, further enhancing its investment-worthy status. The collaboration between French designer Philippe Starck and Italian brand Kartell resulted in the creation of the wildly popular Louis Ghost Chair. This transparent polycarbonate chair, inspired by the Louis XVI chair, is not only a functional piece but also a statement of modern design. 

designer furniture from Space Furniture

Such collaboration, however, is not to be confused with those between designers and mass-market brands. Lissoni expresses scepticism, particularly when it comes to quality, durability and ethical considerations. He emphasises the importance of fair trade, pointing out that the environmental and social impact of production should be a crucial factor in determining the value of a piece.

According to Lissoni, 90 percent of B&B Italia furniture are produced in Brianza, north Italy. The region is renowned for its long-standing tradition of craftsmanship, particularly in the field of furniture and woodworking. The artisans are paid fairly for their skills, work in conducive environments and are protected by comprehensive Italian laws and regulations to promote fair trade practices. This is unlike the working conditions of garment manufacturers in developing countries where fast fashion businesses outsourced to, as depicted in The True Cost documentary. When dangerous practices are conducted by fast fashion businesses, it makes you wonder if the same is being practiced by fast furniture businesses.

Related: 4 stylish Italian furniture pieces to covet

designer furniture B&B Italia

This also leads to the challenges posed by replicas and the importance of buying original pieces. Lissoni draws parallels between choosing original designer furniture and investing in an original painting. The enduring value, resale potential, and the satisfaction of owning an original piece are significant factors that set designer furniture apart. “It’s not about buying more. It’s about investing in choice pieces that last a long time,” he adds.

As consumers navigate the world of furniture choices, Lissoni encourages a mindful approach, urging them to minimise the quantity of pieces in their homes, choose wisely, and invest in original designer furniture for its long-lasting value. His vision for a sustainable market involves sharing the appeal of designer furniture with a broad audience, making it an interesting and accessible market for many.

Space Furniture Singapore showroom photography by Finbarr Fallon

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